A tent is one of the necessities when you are planning camping. you might have seen many tents have a floor that has been damaged due to several uses. And it might even be a premium tent but you should not expect the floor to be strong, so that is when the use of footprints comes in.
In short, a tent footprint is a sheet(second layer) you place under your tent which provides protection for your tent against friction, which in result gives your tent a prolonged usage time and increases the level of comfort of the tent in general
Tent footprints are generally made from polyester or polythene so they are lightweight, so you won’t have a hard time trying to put it into your backpack, and it is also easy to carry if you are bike camping or backpack camping.
What benefits you can get from them
What do you get by putting a footprint under your tent?
- Waterproofing– Some tents are waterproof but most arent and if you have a tent that is not waterproof the footprints will give much help. As I have mention tent footprints are made from polyester or polythene which makes them waterproof and besides that the fact that your tent will not touch the ground directly decreases the chance of water getting into your tent.
- Increased lifetime of your tent– If you use your tent often the floor will start to get damaged and will wear out and if you don’t do something about it, there will appear holes on the floor. These are the main use of footprints, to prolong the lifetime of your tent by acting like a protective layer against the rough ground.
- Insulation– Tent footprints are not much of insulation but depending on the thickness they can have some insulating effects. Especially if your campground is dumpy or wet the ground will suck the heat from your tent but if you have a footprint it will avoid direct contact so in result less heat is taken from your tent
- Comfort– This is the basic use of your footprint, it is not comfortable to sit on the ground directly but if you have some kind of layer on the ground it will add some comfort. but footprints are not thick so don’t expect much from them.
Do you need a tent footprint
I will not say it is a must that you get a tent footprint but they have many uses which you can benefit from. But not many people use them but if you consider their pice which is so cheap to there use they worth it.
People don’t take tent footprints for many reasons and one of them is if they don’t want to add extra weight, and also many other reasons. Anyways if you don’t want to take one with you you can do some other things.
So if you don’t want to buy tent footprint you can take some kind of rug that you have in your home which will act, but the problem is that it will be super heavy which you don’t want if you are backpacking but it is a good choice if you are car camping.
And your last choice, if you decide to go without a tent footprint is to pitch your tent in a ground that is dry and also clean. Make sure you pick any kind of thing that might poke your tent like a stone or a stick
How big and thick should your footprint be
This is a very tricky question and it depends on what you are looking for you might get different size footprints. But you have to know the bigger your footprint the more it weighs.
The perfect size of your footprint should be 1 or 2 inches smaller on all sides of the of your tent unless you want to collect water. and at the maximum it should not be bigger than your tent, it has to fit perfectly.
But if the footprint is bigger, when there is heavy rainwater will get trapped on your groundsheet(footprint) and as a result, water will get into your tent and things will get messy.
But if you are a more experienced camper you can buy a bigger tent footprint and collect water from it when it rains, how? the rainwater that comes from your tent will collect on the sheet and if you angle the footprint in one direction and put some kind of pipe the water will go into it.
How do you know the size of the footprint if you are going to buy them from an online store? so the have their size written, most of the time, like “8feet by 10feet” or by the number of the person ” 1perosn” or “4person”. As I have said just buy a bigger footprint and you can cut it according to the size off the tent.
If you have 1 person tent, just get a footprint that is for 2 person tent but it will be easier if you can get them measured by feet or meters.
The second question is how thick should your footprint be, the thickness is completely your choice. What you have to know is that the thicker the heavier it becomes, but on the other side the thicker your footprint is it will last longer and will give you more protection.
Best tent footprint you can get
Most tent selling companies provide tent footprints too so you have many brands to choose from. But make sure you get something that has good quality and also avoid anything which is too expensive.
There are around 5 types of camping(check this article I have written if you don’t know the 5 camping types) if you have already identified which one you are going then it will be easier to pick your footprint.
But generally, I have found this footprint nice I have bought them from amazon, used it for over 6 months now they are very good they have different sizes and colors you can choose from.
When you buy a tent footprint make sure it won’t be smaller than your tent just buy a bigger one and you can cut it depending on your tent size.
You might hear the word tarp, and you might see some companies selling footprints as tarps, but there is a big difference between tarps and footprints what are they?
How to make your own footprint
Step1- Start with buying a sheet, any kind of sheet you want it doesn’t matter I haven’t tried this sheet on Amazon, but you can use it or go to any hardware store and find one.
Step2- Lay the plastic sheet on the ground and put your tent on it, get a marker and put a mark on the sheet.
Step3- Cut the sheet 1 or 2 inches smaller than the marked because as I have said you don’t want water to gather on your sheet. Done
Footprints vs Tarps
A tarp is a heavy-duty strong flexible sheet that have grommets at four sides. It is mostly used to cover your tent from the sun rain and even snow, as I have said on the other side footprint is a very lightweight friction-resistant sheet you put under your tent.
Tarps have a fabric that have similarities with a trampoline it is flexible and it is very strong. And so you use it to cover your tent and you can have good shade from the sun, you can sit in the shade and enjoy your breakfast.
Tarps also protect you from snow if a huge amount of snow pile on your tent it might be a danger but if you have a tarp it will take care of it.
How can you tell if it is a tarp or a footprint? the first thing is if it has a grommet it is most likely a tarp, and tarps have reinforced double edge.
Can you use a tarp as a tent footprint what about a footprint as a tarp? yes, you can do both but they won’t be as effective. For example, if you use a footprint as a tarp it won’t protect you as a tarp would, but it will not be that bad if you try to use a tarp as a footprint.
Using a footprint and tarp as a tent
If you don’t want to buy a tent you can combine a tarp and a footprint and use it as a shelter or you can buy a big tarp or a footprint and use it as a shelter.
In the above video, you can see how to build a shelter from a tarp and if you don’t want to buy a tent this is money conserving thing you can do.